Alex’s Blog Post

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April 8, 2014:

 

This year, the International Human Rights Clinic partnered with Nazdeek, a capacity-building organization in New Delhi, India, to conduct research and explore strategies for improving housing conditions in New Delhi. Nazdeek is comprised of three human rights workers—Jayshree Satpute, Sukti Dhital and Francesca Fergulio. As part of the work, I, along with two other students, travelled to New Delhi to learn more about the housing challenges in the city.

 

Upon arriving, the first thing that struck me was the sheer scope of homelessness. Driving through the city, I could see families on virtually every corner, living in tents or makeshift structures. In New Delhi, there are over 150,000 homeless individuals and an additional 1.8 to 3.6 million living in slums, depending on which sourse you trust. During our trip, we spent much of our time visiting slums and listening to the plight of the community members in order to discover how our legal work could be most impactful. The resiliency of the people living in the slums clusters stunned me. Many of these communities lack potable water, electricity, sewage systems and other basic necessities. Yet, despite these limitations, the community members were unbelievably hospitable. These were families who had almost nothing, but they invited us into their homes and offered us something to eat and drink. The kids were outside laughing, playing cricket and chasing each other joyfully.

 

After speaking with many families, I learned of the rich history embedded in these slum clusters. Many families have been living in the slums for decades, and their tradition, family history and livelihood are intricately connected with their community. Nonetheless, these families and many other slum-dwellers in New Delhi live in constant fear of the destruction of their homes and livelihood. In the pursuit of transforming New Delhi into a world-renowned city, the city government has turned to demolishing slum clusters and forcing slum dwellers to the periphery of the city. These demolitions often occur suddenly and without notice to the communities, before families even have a chance to remove their few possessions from their homes. Once relocated to the outskirts of the city, many people cannot afford to spend the time and money to commute to their jobs at the city center. Nazdeek steps in to stop these demolitions and has successfully obtained court orders to stay demolitions in a number of communities. Every community with whom we met was extremely grateful for the work being done by Nazdeek. Community members told us that no one cared about their situation until Jayshree, Sukti and Francesca walked into their community, listened to their stories and decided to make a difference.

 

While in New Delhi, we were presented with an incredible opportunity to meet with Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court and one of Asia's most renowned jurists. Justice Shah, as the current chairman of the Law Commission of India, a board of legal experts entrusted by the Government of India to reform the law, is keenly interested in reforming housing laws in India and sees our work as coming to his attention at the perfect time. As a result, this quarter we will be aiding the Law Commission in drafting the framework for a national housing rights policy for India.

 

I decided to go to law school to do human rights work and have learned so much from this experience. This project has been one of the most meaningful experiences that I have had at the University of Chicago Law School. For the first time, I am able to see what it truly means to be an international human rights lawyer.

 

Programs

Right to Adequate Housing

Right to Adequate Housing

Housing is a core component of the right to an adequate standard of living.  Read More.

Right to Food

Right to Food

It is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Right to Life, observes Supreme Court of India.  Read More.

Right to Health

Right to Health

State has to guarantee that the right to health is available, accessible and of high quality.  Read More.